Moral Relativism (Pro) vs. Divine Command Theory (Con)
This is a topic I would enjoy debating. My previous debate over this topic ended in forfeiture by my opponent, so I ask that my opponent not forfeit in this debate.
Moral Relativism - "[that] the truth or justification of moral judgments is not absolute, but relative to some group of persons" 
Divine Command Theory - "human beings require a special divine assistance in their ordinary cognitive activities [of discerning moral behavior]" 
First round is for acceptance.
Morality - "a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons" 
What Hume is saying here is that statements about observable follow an "is" form. Data is described using "is", observations are described using "is" logical axioms, etc. But when we make statements about our perceptions of morality, we follow a different form. We instead say "ought", we say that a person ought or ought not do something in a certain situation. However, we cannot observe "ought" statements. When we look at a rock to observe its color, for example, we do not say "The rock ought to be grey", we instead say "The rock is grey". This is an important distinction, because it means that rationally, as we base the vast majority of our knowledge upon observation, we cannot deduce moral axioms from observation, as non-moral facts cannot reduce to moral ones. Therefore, a fundamental gap in our knowledge exists between what we know about our world and what we believe to be moral.
This gap creates a great inability to make statements about what is moral and what is not moral, as our ability to do this is dependent on a supposed understanding of what it means for something to be moral. Where we believe to derive our definition of morality from is in fact not based at all on observation or deduction.
Contention Two: Origins of Morality
The ideas of right and wrong seem almost embedded into our heads, as if we can simply call upon them using our inuition to solve all of the problems that we need to regarding morality. But fundamentally, these chemical impulses in our brains have been coded into us by natural selection. Many of the actions that we consider to be immoral we only consider immoral because they are toxic to our own chances of survival. For example, if a species evolved that released dopamine every time they killed one of their own members, they would be rewarded for destroying their own species, and that species would quickly die out. But in surviving species, one common trend is a bad feeling about killing on of your own, leading a species that is more protective of its own survival. Thus, species that feel bad about killing their own kind survive more than species that feel good about it. Other examples appear in nature as well. One would be volunteering. As humans, we understand that volunteering is morally good. But why would we think this? How does evolution lead to pleasure in volunteering? Len Fisher describes an important situation like this:
"Migrating wildebeest have a problem. When the herd comes to a river crossing with the crocodiles waiting in anticipation, the animals that go into the water first don't have a great future. Those that come behind have a much better chance of making a safe crossing while the crocs are chewing on their bolder companions. But if none of them volunteers to go into the water first, the whole herd will be cut off from the pastures on the other side, and they will all starve. As with many human situations in which volunteers are required, the answer lies in a heavy hint. The animals that get eaten don't want to go in first. They stand on the bank looking at each other in nervous anticipation until pressure from those behind pushes them in. That's the hint." 
The basic idea here is that alleged principles of some higher and objective morality are really only hardwired into our brains because of biological necessity and nothing more. We only feel bad about murdering, stealing, not volunteering, and feel good about charity, helpfulness, etc. because these things are helpful to the survival of humanity and so by the principles of natural selection, we have been engineered into feeling this way about these principles.
Contention Three: The Euthryphro Dilemma
Divine Command Theory is based on a number of flawed principles about our understanding of morality. The first I will address is the Euthyphro Dilemma, which is a question about God's relation with morality, namely which is higher. Is an action morally acceptable because God says it is? Or does God say an action is morally acceptable because it satisfies some higher criteria for morality? If the former is true, then morality as a concept is meaningless for God, which undermines the premise of Divine Command Theory. If the latter is true, then it is not God that supplies goodness, but that higher and separate criteria. This also undermines the premise of Dvine Command Theory. Bertrand Russel writes:
"If you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, you are then in this situation: Is that difference due to God's fiat or is it not? If it is due to God's fiat, then for God Himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good. If you are going to say, as theologians do, that God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning which is independent of God's fiat, because God's fiats are good and not good independently of the mere fact that he made them. If you are going to say that, you will then have to say that it is not only through God that right and wrong came into being, but that they are in their essence logically anterior to God." 
No matter which side you pick on the Euthyphyo dilemma, you destroy God's capability to be the master of morality, and in the process destroy Divine Command Theory.
Contention Four: God's Existence
Clearly if God did not exist in the first place, Divine Command Theory would be false be default. I will use the following short arguments against the existence of God. My opponent may address them to the magnitude they wish.
Paradox of the Stone:
If God were truly omnipotent, then God could do anything. If God could do anything, then God could create a stone that God was unable to lift. If God can create the stone he cannot lift it and isn't omnipotent. If God can't create the stone he also isn't omnipotent. As God is defined by omnipotence, God cannot exist.
If God were truly omniscient, then God would know what He would do in the future. If God were truly omnipotent, he could defy that knowledge and do something else. If God can't do something else, He isn't omnipotent. If He can do something else, He isn't omniscient. Therefore God cannot exist.
Over to you.
Fisher, Len. "The Seven Deadly Dilemmas." Rock, Paper, Scissors, Game Theory in Everyday Life. New York: Basic, 2008. 77-78. Print.
Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian (New York: Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, 1957), 12.
Now an observation, or two.
1) This debate is not about the existence of God, though that question will inevitably come up. Therefore, my opponent needs to show that moral relativism would be be a better option than divine command theory even in a theistic universe.
2) This debate is set up as one ethical theory against another. If Pro wins, then Cons loses and vice versa. There is no third option. In this particular discussion, it comes down to divine command theory or moral relativism.
3) As a Christian, I do not seek to defend some generic theistic ethical theory. I will be advocating ethical system that is a part of Christian theism.
God: absolute tri-personality.1
Argument 1: The need for an objective standard.
So, this debate has divine command theory (DCT from now on) and moral relativism (MR) in a boxing match going at it, fighting against each other. This is a one-on-one fight. MR, if true, cannot complain about anything that happens in the world. Rape, murder, theft, perjury, may make the moral relativist feel bad, but he must remember that morality is relative. There is no objective standard to point to. Indeed, a more fundamental observation is that the moral relativist cannot even have this debate if he wishes to be consistent. How are we to judge ethical theories without an objective ethical standard by which to judge them? If there are no objective standards, then this debate is pointless. By necessity, we need a standard if the voters are going to decide who wins this debate. Moreover, we need an objective standard if we want to stop someone from killing us! If MR is true, then all we can say is "to each his own." MR does not supply a rallying cry against the evil in the world. Therefore, if the relativist wants to live consistently with MR, he must sit back and watch the world burn while the rest of us put the fire out.
Argument 2: I don't know what to call this one...
DCT (specifically Christian) says that our moral sanctions come from a person. Without this Person to give us moral commands on what is right or wrong, we would have no obligation to do anything. That's because morality is primarily spoken of in terms of obligation to a person. We can be obligated to persons only. "Morality" based on chemical reactions, or repeated behavior based on a pleasant feeling we get is not morality at all. We are not obligated to chemicals, atoms, molecules, etc. For, obligation implies the ability to disobey. Indeed, if we are able to go against the grain, then we are going against some sort of obligation. That's because our moral choices are relative to some objective moral standard. Even within MR, we can ask "if morality is relative, what is morality relative to?" As soon as the relativist gives an answer, he has proven that there is some sort of standard that is objective.
Argument 3: God is the standard.
Building on the previous argument: the need for an objective standard of morality would need to be based on something that is in and of itself objective. And since God is the standard himself, we have what we need for morality: an absolute (or objective, personally find the difference semantics) and a person. God says "You shall be holy, for I am holy" (1 Pet. 1:16; Lev. 20:26). That is the summary of all of God's commands. Because of his moral character, we are to act in a certain way. His commands are not based on his divine fiat: he commands us to be as he is. God is not a father who tells his son to stop looking at porn and then goes to the strip club. He is not a father who tells his children not to steal and then cheats on his taxes. His own character is the basis for his commands. Therefore, the Euthyrphro dilemma is already dealt with. Goodness does not dwell outside of God.
If we have an objective standard rooted in a person who issues forth commands to his creation, then we have a moral obligation to obey them. This mean that we can be obedient or disobedient to Him, but we can also make sense out of the evil in the world. MR does not make sense out of the evil in the world because it does not say that people are obliged to behave in a certain way. As a Christian divine command theorist, I can point to the evil and call for change and progress. Moreover, because I believe that these commands come from a God who himself is the basis of morality, who himself is morally perfect, then these commands must be in accord with his character. If God's commands line up with his moral perfection, then that means when he tells us to do something he is telling us to behave in moral perfection.
For these reasons I urge a vote for Con:
1)DCT provides an objective standard for all moral behavior.
2)DCT is a social ethic, not an individual ethic.
3) DCT allows for the greatest chance at conformity to God's own good character.
1. Frame, John. "God's Lordship as a Unique Worldview.""Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Christian Belief. Phllipsburg: P&R, 2013. 1219. Print.
Thank you to Con for their rebuttal.
I would like to begin by clarifying a few points in response to opponent's observations.
"1) This debate is not about the existence of God, though that question will inevitably come up. Therefore, my opponent needs to show that moral relativism would be be a better option than divine command theory even in a theistic universe."
While I do agree with the basic idea of this observation, it is important to note that as my opponent does not address my fourth contention in any other way, this statement by itself must be treated as the sole rebuttal to my fourth contention. A fundamental premise of Divine Command Theory is the existence of God. Therefore, if I logically demonstrate that God cannot exist, I have demonstrated subsequently that Divine Command Theory is false. This is not a minor matter either, but the philosophical equivalent of losing one's arm.
"2) This debate is set up as one ethical theory against another. If Pro wins, then Cons loses and vice versa. There is no third option. In this particular discussion, it comes down to divine command theory or moral relativism."
This is entirely correct. With that noted, my above comments pertaining to my fourth contention are of a much more dire status.
I would like to mention that only my third contention received a rebuttal by my opponent. While they have stated that they were going to rebut it in the next round, the only legitimate reason to delay part of one's argument would be due to character constraints. But my opponent's case only occupied approximately 5000 of the allotted 8000 characters, leaving plenty of room for a rebuttal. Therefore my opponent had no legitimate reason to not rebut my arguments this round.
I will now rebut my opponent's arguments.
First Argument Rebuttal
"Rape, murder, theft, perjury, may make the moral relativist feel bad, but he must remember that morality is relative. There is no objective standard to point to."
This is completely correct. And the reason that we feel bad about these activities is because, as I pointed out in my second contention, we have evolved that way, and species that feel good about those activities, as I discussed earlier, do not survive. Humans only feel the way we do about them because we could not exist in any other way. But to say that some higher and all-permeating standard is the reason for these feelings rather than the necessity of natural selection is a claim that requires justification, even if we intuitively feel that these things MUST be immoral. Intuition is no substitute for logic.
"the moral relativist cannot even have this debate if he wishes to be consistent. How are we to judge ethical theories without an objective ethical standard by which to judge them? If there are no objective standards, then this debate is pointless. By necessity, we need a standard if the voters are going to decide who wins this debate."
Not at all. The purpose of this debate is not to fulful some moral obligation but to establish which model of reality is factual. Even if that goal is arbitrary, that doesn't mean that I'm being inconsistent. I can perform an arbitrary action knowing full well that it is arbitrary. In fact, if we go back to ideas of evolution and its relationship with morality as discussed earlier, we can even conclude that I am making these arguments because I have been hardwired to seek knowledge of the true state of reality by evolution.
"Moreover, we need an objective standard if we want to stop someone from killing us! If MR is true, then all we can say is "to each his own." MR does not supply a rallying cry against the evil in the world. Therefore, if the relativist wants to live consistently with MR, he must sit back and watch the world burn while the rest of us put the fire out."
Incorrect again. This statement presupposes that in order for a model of reality to be correct, it must make a statement against immoral actions. But this commits the fallacy of begging the question, as that in and of itself presupposes the statement that you are trying to prove, making your argument here circular. Additionally, we are prevented from murdering each other by our evolutionary hardwiring, as I have discussed before.
Second Argument Rebuttal
This argument is, unfortunately, merely a description of my opponent's beliefs about morality without an actual justification for it. This once again begs the question. My opponent may believe in the tenets of Divine Command Theory, and has summarized them here, but they once again are presupposing their conclusion. This argument rests upon the first, and seeing as that one was not valid, this one is not either. Additionally, the statement at the end is fraught with errors.
"Even within MR, we can ask "if morality is relative, what is morality relative to?" As soon as the relativist gives an answer, he has proven that there is some sort of standard that is objective."
There are two important problems here. The first is that this is a fallacy of equivalence, taking the name of an idea literally and making arguments based on that literal (and usually wrong) interpretation. The second is that this question is answered in the definition of Moral Relativism. It is simply relative to different groups and eras of people. But because it can differ, any standard for morality cannot be objective. Being relative to something does not imply objectivity.
Third Argument Rebuttal
This argument is composed of two parts. The first seeks to prove the linking of an objective moral standard with God, but is based on the previous two arguments, which I have already rebutted. The second part is my opponent's response to the Euthyphro dilemma.
"His commands are not based on his divine fiat: he commands us to be as he is. God is not a father who tells his son to stop looking at porn and then goes to the strip club. He is not a father who tells his children not to steal and then cheats on his taxes. His own character is the basis for his commands. Therefore, the Euthyrphro dilemma is already dealt with. Goodness does not dwell outside of God."
Here my opponent has stated that the origin of morality is in God's nature. Unfortunately, this does not deal with the Euthyrphro dilemma, it merely dodges it. We are once again faced with the same question: is God's nature good according to some separate standard, or are actions good because it is in God's nature to do them? If the former, then morality does not come from God. If the latter, then morality is meaningless to God. Either way, a fundamental premise of Divine Command Theory is undermined.
"If we have an objective standard rooted in a person who issues forth commands to his creation, then we have a moral obligation to obey them."
The key word here being "if". My opponent has failed to demonstrate that such a standard or person exists.
"This mean that we can be obedient or disobedient to Him, but we can also make sense out of the evil in the world. MR does not make sense out of the evil in the world because it does not say that people are obliged to behave in a certain way. As a Christian divine command theorist, I can point to the evil and call for change and progress."
Once again, my opponent's statements here only hold up if you presuppose their ideology, that a quality known as "evil" even exists objectively in reality. My opponent has not demonstrated this.
"Moreover, because I believe that these commands come from a God who himself is the basis of morality, who himself is morally perfect, then these commands must be in accord with his character. If God's commands line up with his moral perfection, then that means when he tells us to do something he is telling us to behave in moral perfection."
Which in and of itself merely leads to another Euthyphro dilemma. An argument that was not rebutted but only dodged, as I mentioned before.
With that, I hand it over to Con.
djdipretoro forfeited this round.
Extend all of my arguments and award conduct to me due to my opponent's forfeiture.
djdipretoro forfeited this round.
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